Hamilton: Mercedes must now rise as a team

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Lewis Hamilton has said that Mercedes must put the clash between himself and Nico Rosberg in the past and now focus on rising as a team to secure both F1 titles in 2014.

The British driver slipped to 29 points behind Rosberg in the drivers’ championship following their on-track incident at the Belgian Grand Prix, which saw Rosberg try an overzealous move on the Briton that left him with a puncture.

Many questioned just how the two drivers could reconcile in the wake of this incident, but after talks in England today with Rosberg and the team bosses, Hamilton has urged the team not to dwell on the situation.

“Today we came together as a team and discussed our differences,” a statement from the 2008 world champion read. “Nico and I accept that we have both made mistakes and I feel it would be wrong to point fingers and say which one is worse than the other.

“What’s important is how we rise as a team from these situations. We win and we lose together and, as a team, we will emerge stronger.

“There is a deep foundation that still exists for me and Nico to work from, in spite of our difficult times and differences.”

Hamilton said that both he and Rosberg must not risk damaging the team effort for their own personal gain.

“We have the greatest team, the strongest group of individuals who have worked their hands to the bone to give us the best car you see us racing today,” he said. “It’s important that we never forget that and give them the results they deserve.

“Today, Toto and Paddy told us clearly how we must race against each other from now on in a fair and respectful manner. The fans want to see a clean fight until the end of the season and that’s what we want to give them.”

When concluding his piece, Hamilton underlined his commitment to fighting for this year’s world title, in spite of the points deficit he faces with seven races remaining.

“It’s going to be a tough road from here but championships have been won from much further back than I am now,” he said. “I promise you that I will be giving everything and more to win this for my team, for my family and for my fans.”

With statements from both drivers and the team now issued, Mercedes will turning its attention to next week’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds